“I hate you. And I’ll hate you forever.”
The words stung more than they should have. I knew they were empty expressions of frustration and the vocalization of a mad that was directed to me because it was easier than admitting the wrong that started the whole conversation. I knew that as he slammed by me, tears running down his face, he was crying from anger, but also from realization that the words that hung in the air just above our heads could never be unsaid or unheard.. I knew as I followed him out on the front porch that he needed me, yet feared I might repeat the sentiment, but this time back to him.
So, I closed the door behind us and we stood on the porch with the most beautiful afternoon sun beginning it’s westward descent. I answered him,
“I don’t care if you hate me.”
The look of surprise worked from his brow to his lip. He stared at me, uncertain of my answer.
“I don’t care if you hate me, because it doesn’t change that I love you. Nor does it change that you broke a rule. Nor does it change that you will face the consequence of your choice, How you feel about me in this moment matters much less to me than how you will feel about yourself as you grow into a man.”
“You don’t care that I HATE you?” He spit the word hate out with as much force and venom as he could, as if to ram the sharpness of the sentiment between my ribs. I can’t recall another child saying this to my face. My guess is they have written it in secret journals, muttered it under their breath or shared the thought with a sibling or friend. But never had one of my children looked me in the eye and slung the words with accuracy into the softest part of me.
Of course I cared. Never will words so loveless, so strongly spoken, not be a reason for care, but in that moment, I knew that my feelings were not the priority. I also knew that to lose focus on the point would give strength to this deadly weapon. So I said, “Not right now, I don’t.”
Air seemed to seep from him. He didn’t get what he wanted. I was not going to react, though injured from the cut. So he changed his posture to receive what had already been shared would be the consequence of that particular behavior. He knew it. He chose it anyway. His words were not going to be a distraction from the need to be consistent. Ultimately, I knew even if he did hate me, that was his choice. I had to make a choice for myself to love him. Today my love was manifest in losing a night practicing with his team.
When I was about 13 years old, I remember my Dad telling me, very likely just after I slung hate at him, that he would rather I hate him at thirteen than hate him at thirty. I think that is what loving someone is all about sometimes sacrificing in the moment of hard for their benefit, so that they might have it easier in the future.
This week as I balance the, at times, overwhelmingly difficult task of parenting a hurting child, with the tasks that burden my day, while also trying to understand the devastation of whole families being blown away by the strong winds of this week storms, I too, want to lash out, to spit disgust and frustration to my Father. There are many days I stand on that same porch and I yell at Him. And, ashamed, I confess, I tell Him I hate Him, but I don’t mean it. In that moment., I am certain He knows, and He doesn’t care, because how I feel in any given moment does not change that He loves me.
My boy softened as I reminded him that no matter what, I love Him. He was able to face his burden in that realization. I know that I can hear, “I hate you,” from my child and be angry in the face of unexplainable death and still soften into peace, because I am constantly reminded of His, “I love you.”